This week saw the official opening of a school garden I designed for the pupils of St John’s & St Clement’s Church of England Primary School in SE15. It’s been a really interesting project to do and it’s great to see the children enjoying the finished result.
The initial brief for the garden involved wide consultation with pupils, parents and staff, so there were a broad range of views, suggestions and requirements to take into account. Up until now the school had no green space at all, so the two main purposes of the garden have been to create a space for outdoor lessons and to create a peaceful green environment for the children to use during playtimes and lunchtimes.
The design solution provides a multi-purpose space that includes an outdoor classroom with curved benches and overhead shade sail, a circular sandstone nautical compass, sundial, tree seat, arch, flower beds and a winding woodland path under three Himalayan birch trees.
The garden was also designed with sustainability in mind. It was created on land reclaimed from an adjacent house owned by the school and by demolishing unused and unsafe outbuildings. Use of permeable surface materials means all rainwater now drains on-site. All the timber structures and furniture are made with wood from sustainably managed forests. A beehive-style compost bin allows for garden waste to be composted and used in the garden, whilst biodiversity is encouraged with log piles and a range of nectar-rich flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies and other wildlife.
And what about encouraging the children to grow their own food, I hear you cry. Well, there are already some brick raised beds in the main playround used for this purpose, so it wasn’t part of the brief for the new garden.
The garden was officially opened on Monday by the Bishop of Southwark in front of all the school children – over 400 in all. And it didn’t even rain!
I believe it’s really important for children to have access to green space and to connect with the natural environment. I hope this new garden helps stimulate their learning and instill a wonder and respect for plants and nature.